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Buck's Fishing and Camping, Upper Conn. Ave. NW - Chef James Rexroad Replaces Vickie Reh


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wow. I have never been to Buck's, but it's been on my list of places to try for a while now. I'd heard it was pricey, but I didn't realize we were talking mid-40s entrees. Is this an anomaly? And more interestingly, I see that in Rocks' first post in this thread, the steak dish was $29.50. Even given that the original post was from 2003-2004, that seems like an excessive cost increase. Has Buck's morphed from an affordable neighborhood place (mid-teens entrees per Rocks) to an overpriced special occasion place? I'm just trying to understand the place so I'll know what to expect.

[and as an aside, I assume (hope?) Waitman's comment about avoiding a restaurant at 7:30 was tonge-in-cheek? Otherwise, that's one of the more asinine things I've heard. I'm "asking for trouble" if I go to a restaurant at prime dining time? No-- I should expect any competent restaurant to be able to serve me dinner during dinnertime.]

I expect any competent department store to be able to sell me a gift, but I try to avoid them the week before Christmas. I expect the Bay Bridge to be able to carry my car, but I don't show up at 5PM July 3rd and expect to breeze through. And I expect a competent restaurant to be able to serve me dinner at "dinnertime" (is 7:30 federally mandated or something? most restaurants and people I know have a more flexible window), but I'm not asinine enough to show up at the peak of the rush and expect the same odds of a consistently smooth, relaxing dinner as I would get if I showed up earlier or later. Not that that I'd necessarily expect a problem -- though I would expect everyone from the busboy to the bartender to more stressed and hurried -- but I'm a lot less surprised.
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Thanks for the kind words Don.  Terasol has great ambiance, cool live music, and very unpretentious.  I would go there just to have a great conversation in a very chill environment.  The food is fine

At the risk of overrating a place that has been underrated in the past, my low expectations were blown away this past Saturday night. My party of 4 had 6:45 reservations (and needed them - the nondesc

Although we can cordially disagree about the virtues of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, every indication is that Buck's is back. (I quoted your entire post since you got hosed on the page break. )

I'm interested in what you all would do.

Thanks.

Clarification edit** It was wednesday night. the restaurant was about half full. not crowded at all.

I would have thanked the server for her concern, cancelled the entrees, asked for the check, tipped generously and left without further discussion. There is no need to suffer incompetence.
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I'm interested in what you all would do.

i would probably have started fighting with my parents. just from the way you describe your sister ordering the steak, it sounds like there was some negative energy at the table, and i would have picked up on it. however, if they really were upset i would have found someone and asked what was taking so long and told them my parents were getting really anxious. i think that would have helped, no matter what was transpiring in the kitchen. your table needed to refocus, and the people at buck's probably would have been able to get things back on track.

i can see how some people might find 45 minutes an intolerable wait for an entree. however, as a veteran metrobus rider, that's next to no time for me, and hanging out at buck's, which is radiant when the sun is setting, is far preferable to standing at the stop watching all the cars go by. personally, i prefer waiting to getting rushed. when we are out to dinner with friends or family members, the time usually goes racing by, and if anything i would wish for a longer stay, to concentrate on the food and enjoy the conversation. what happened? buck's is a convivial place, and it sounds like you ran out of things to say to each other, and started obsessing about a problem, or fuming, without doing anything to correct it. so you ended up in a funk when you were there for a good time, right? not that i haven't been there on quite a few occasions in my life. why can't we all just be happy campers?

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wow. I have never been to Buck's, but it's been on my list of places to try for a while now. I'd heard it was pricey, but I didn't realize we were talking mid-40s entrees. Is this an anomaly? And more interestingly, I see that in Rocks' first post in this thread, the steak dish was $29.50. Even given that the original post was from 2003-2004, that seems like an excessive cost increase. Has Buck's morphed from an affordable neighborhood place (mid-teens entrees per Rocks) to an overpriced special occasion place? I'm just trying to understand the place so I'll know what to expect.

The steak is $46, and the other three entrees offered last night were $22, $23, and $24.

Buck's sirloin steak has gotten expensive over the years, but it's still one of the best steaks in town, dry-aged and prime, wood-grilled to a perfect medium-rare, and a meat-eaters paradise. Furthermore, it's served with what I believe to be the best french fries in the city right now, what the menu describes as "hand-cut thrasher fries" (which I assume comes from Thrasher's in Ocean City?). These french fries are so good that I almost ordered an extra side of them for $7, even though there was already a small mound of them on my enormous steak. At this price, even though Buck's loves its tongue-in-cheek simplicity, I'd like to see a larger plate, and maybe a green or two for aesthetics, but you'll find no substantive complaints from me about the steak and fries themselves.

Ann Cashion recently mentioned that Johnny's Half Shell has the best fried oysters in town. I've never had them, but I've never had any fried oysters better than the ones currently being served at Buck's ($17) with a lemon-herb tartar sauce. Most places in town, even the best places, use frozen oysters for frying, but these things seemed like they were bursting out of their cornmeal crust, and just as fresh as can be. Every bit as good were the Wood-grilled fresh shrimp ($24), served over the only grits in the city I enjoy more than Gillian Clark's, and with a couple pieces of spicy sausage that make the dish moan-inducing.

I sometimes order the Iceberg Wedge ($8) here as a substitute for an after-dinner cheese course, because it's loaded up with Maytag Blue Cheese and the cool, watery lettuce appeals to me after a meal of wood-grilled meats. (Not to mention that it's littered with applewood-smoked bacon.) This time around the wedge was iced with a dressing in addition to the cheese that didn't quite work for me, and I'm not quite sure what was in it, but it seemed to have strong overtones of horseradish which I thought competed with the already-strong tastes of blue cheese and smoked bacon. There, I had to say something, anything, other than a gushing string of positives about this terrific meal at one of our city's best restaurants.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Buck's Fishing & Camping? Or Buck's Family Couselling? :angry:

Hey Hey.. my only point was that one entry was a full 100% more than all of the others, and with a limited menu of only 4 choices and that being the only one not being "of the sea" it can be frustrating. If the waitress had pointed out- hey big enough to share we may have.

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Hey Hey.. my only point was that one entry was a full 100% more than all of the others, and with a limited menu of only 4 choices and that being the only one not being "of the sea" it can be frustrating. If the waitress had pointed out- hey big enough to share we may have.

I wasn't aiming at you, it was another poster's impromptu analysis that prompted that comment.

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The wine list at Buck's just keeps getting better. Although it consists of only about fifty wines, it features Gamay, Primitivo, Malbec, Agiorghitiko, Mourvedre, Syrah, Bonarda, Touriga, Franca, Tempranillo, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Negrette, Xinomavro, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscadelle, Gros Manseng, Vernaccia, Erbaluce, Verdejo, Pinot Grigio, Semillon, Soave, Malagousia, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Rousanne, Clairette, and Viognier, most of which are made by small producers, imported by small importers, and priced in the $30s or $40s.

It's ironic, but not at all surprising, that the All-American cooking of Carole Greenwood is accompanied by this ecclectic wine list, where every single bottle except one comes from France, Spain, Italy, or Greece.

James Alefantis has poured himself into this wine list, and Buck's has become one of the safest places in town to close your eyes, point, pick, and find something interesting and fairly priced.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Buck's was hit or miss last night - the shrimp and grits and steak drew nothing but raves, and the mac and cheese was delicious. But the fried chicken was missing salt and pepper, and its accompanying biscuit tasted like raw flour. I was glad my friends who had never been were eating the hits, and I was stuck with the miss.

Also odd, and a touch I didn't remember from my previous visits - our server read us the menu, verbatim. As he walked away, my friend made the comment we all were thinking - "we probably could've read that ourselves".

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The big news at buck’s these days, as far as I’m concerned, is that they are baking their own bread. It tastes as good as homemade, is dense and chewy with a tender crust. There was a problem with oversalting, but that should be easy enough to fix.

The pork and guacamole tacos showed some improvement over the first time I had them recently (and even then they were good), with the pork more tender. The tortillas this time were too tough, though.

You can feel like you’re getting a bit of a jump on prime spring with a plate of roasted asparagus that’s about as good as it gets, and the pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream on top gets the blue ribbon as long as Gillian clark hasn’t entered her gooier, butterier version in the contest.

edited to add the er

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and the pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream on top gets the blue ribbon as long as Gillian clark hasn’t entered her gooier, buttier version in the contest.
I was going to make a joke here, but I'll leave that to Rocks or Al Dente, this type of humor is right in their wheelhouse. ;)
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I've got plans to go to Buck's tonight. Haven't been before. I'm currently off of all dairy, including butter per doctor's orders (my infant son gets sick when I consume any). Will I be able to find anything to eat there or should I suggest an alternate restaurant to my dining companions?

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My first visit to Buck's last night. I loved the atmosphere. Very cozy and rustic. I started with whatever sparkling wine they offer by the glass...I apologize that I cannot remember the name but I thought it was fun that it was served in a coupe rather than a traditional champagne glass.

Started with the wedge salad which was fantastic. The bacon was fabulous and I loved the blue cheese wedge.

They had very few entrees on offer last night. They were out of the fried chicken by 7:30 pm. So, the choices were the steak, fish, meatloaf and shrimp. The men at the table chose the steak. I tried my husband's and it was great...very salty crust which I actually liked but others might have found it to be too much. I did notice when we were at the bar that a man was eating a massive steak all in one piece. My husband's, on the other hand, was cut into several pieces on his plate (and he ordered it medium so it wasn't like it had to be butterflied). Also, the portion was considerably smaller than the steak the man had at the bar. Speaking of portions, I ordered the shrimp and it was almost laughably tiny. I am not looking for Cheesecake Factory portions, but Nicole Ritchie would have thought this was small. Three regular-sized shrimp, about two tablespoons of grits and a sausage link the size of Jimmy Dean and with not much more flavor. All-in-all I was not thrilled with my entree.

We shared the chocolate cake for dessert which was wonderful but not at all what I expected. From what I had read, I thought it would be a chocolate layer cake, but instead, it was more of a molten cake wedge served warm with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It was very good.

Service was great. We encountered none of the problems that previous posters did. I would happily return to Buck's but would change my entree selection next time.

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I ate at Buck's for the first time last year, and completely loved it. But the takeaway from this meal, what I truly remember as being amazing was the dessert I had; Heirloom Pear Tart.

The pastry was light and flaky, as it should be, no surprise here. The pastry tasted simply of butter with a high percentage of butter fat made with a good quality cream, sugar, flour and salt-- dead simple. The pear, tasted of a pear in the height of season, it tasted like a ripe pear. Both the pastry and fruit combined together in a simple, non-overstated way, this dessert was about its ingredients, nothing more and because of this, I have to say was one of the best desserts I have had in DC. Yum! Go here for dessert.

.hobbes

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We've loved Buck's for years but the facts that the $46 steak gets cut up (and sometimes grossly overcooked) when you order MEDIUM for chrissakes and that you have really limited alternatives (if you're not into fish/seafood), has gradually driven us away. Mostly to Dino's, as it turns out. (Palena was already in the rotation.) Buck's is just too expensive to be a crapshoot and that's my experience at this point -- although, damn, when it's good, it's one of our favorite places to be. So hope springs eternal but we do always ask ourselves whether we're feeling lucky tonight and/or whether we're willing to risk it. Most of the time, the answer is no. And I can't think of anyplace else where we go through the same calculus. (Probably because other equally erratic places get written off much earlier, LOL! In those cases, the upside just isn't high enough to bother.)

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Wow, that was a great steak! And the best fries I have had in a long time!

Now I can't understand the negative publicity this place has gotten. Well, last night was our first time there but it won't be our last. What's with the Washingtonian's current issue remarks about big shots eating there? It was all very relaxing, laid back. I felt like I was in a roadside Alabama fish fry joint, and I mean that in a nice way. We even liked the background music (Van Morrison doing Hank Williams, some Patsy Cline, some modern bluegrass).

We split the apple/pear pie and had some "whoa!" moments. Seriously tasty food. Thanks, Buck!

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Wow, that was a great steak! And the best fries I have had in a long time!

Now I can't understand the negative publicity this place has gotten. Well, last night was our first time there but it won't be our last. What's with the Washingtonian's current issue remarks about big shots eating there? It was all very relaxing, laid back. I felt like I was in a roadside Alabama fish fry joint, and I mean that in a nice way. We even liked the background music (Van Morrison doing Hank Williams, some Patsy Cline, some modern bluegrass).

We split the apple/pear pie and had some "whoa!" moments. Seriously tasty food. Thanks, Buck!

An Alabama fish fry joint? Have the prices changed? I know others have complained about limited selections and cost, which has been an issue with me and my lack of desire to return. You did not find the steak, or other items, on the expensive side like other folks have mentioned?

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An Alabama fish fry joint? Have the prices changed? I know others have complained about limited selections and cost, which has been an issue with me and my lack of desire to return. You did not find the steak, or other items, on the expensive side like other folks have mentioned?

the steak is expensive as ever, but prices have pushed down a bit. i have watched them over the years. they bob.

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We split the steak. It was plenty big. $46 for two was not a bad price. Cheaper than Ray's. The other items were much lower.

I can't see why Washingtonian described this place (#40) as expensive and Johnny's Half Shell (#39) as moderately priced. We found it more expensive at JHS. We took friends to JHS assuming we'd have entrees for ~14 and were really surprised by the prices.

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Our server suggested that the steak was big enough for the two of us if we had a couple of smaller dishes, so we split the minestrone with meatballs and the iceberg lettuce salad. A $46 steak for one is certainly out of our price range. Certainly expensive. I realize that. But our bottom line total was about the same at Buck's as at Ray's, and it included dessert. I'd still call our dinner expensive, but not more than at Johnny's Half Shell. The entrees in the evening at JHS can be around $25 or more, if my memory is any better than my math! :P

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Al Kamen adds an odd chapter to Buck's lore today (fifth item).

The Customers You Have

"The Gamble," our colleague Thomas E. Ricks's excellent sequel to the extraordinary "Fiasco," will draw the usual plaudits for its insider account of Iraq as seen through the eyes of the top military officers who ran the war in the last three years. Reviewers will focus on strategy disagreements, policy fights and such.

But those who don't care about policy -- especially those living in this area -- will be dazzled by fascinating local color. For example, Ricks recounts former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's visit shortly after he was booted out of the Pentagon, to Buck's Fishing and Camping, an upscale Washington eatery.

As an example of the "loathing Rumsfeld had generated" he writes that chef-owner Carole Greenwood told her co-owner, James Alefantis, to kick Rumsfeld out.

"I'm not serving a war criminal in my restaurant," she said.

Alefantis said that she's there to serve people and Rumsfeld was there with his family. Greenwood relented, Ricks writes, "but only on the condition that someone else cook Rumsfeld's meal."

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Al Kamen adds an odd chapter to Buck's lore today (fifth item).

As a card-carrying liberal and former waiter, some of my most difficult days professionally were spent serving the crowds celebrating the Reagan 1985 and the Bush 1989 inaugurations. Cabinet members, political hacks, and the kind of Texans that annoy Eastern Elitists like myself (gaudy rolexes --aka a Texas Timex -- and $2000 cowboy boots under their tux). I took comfort in the fact that rich people in a good mood spend big and tip well, regardless of party affiliation, and tried to remember that civility is a good thing.

But I do understand where Chef Greenwood was coming from.

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Interesting the James chose to use GOG to confirm the rumor that has been floating around. Is this a slap at food journalists in the area?
No, Sietsema's name was on the byline at the bottom. The GOG blog is where he's been posting breaking news of late.
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I think the change will be good.

it's not going to be the same and it will be difficult to replace carole greenwood. it will be interesting to see what buck's turns into, but over the years i think many people have greatly underestimated the cooking here. it was quirky, but also one of our favorite restaurants.

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Just got off the phone this afternoon with James Alefantis. He has hired former Food Matters sous chef, Vickie Reh, as the head chef at Bucks. More info here.

Tim, I know Vickie has been interim chef, but is it now permanent?

If so, a hearty congratulations to our own Loire Lover, who incidentally was the person originally responsible for putting together the wine program at Cork.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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wedge salad not what it once was, but still okay. hamburger good, but not in the same league as what's down the street. fish taco good, continuing in the taco tradition now going back several months here. but the best thing on the menu a week or two ago were cherries: cherry pudding pie and just plain cherry pie. michigan cherry pie was also available. the pies came with a warning that the cherries weren't pitted, so these maybe weren't the best desserts if you had been drinking heavily, and it was exciting to find them here. not surprisingly, this place appears to be loosening up nicely, although it's a shock to see some of the big art that anchored the dining room gone, replaced by jokes.

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wedge salad not what it once was, but still okay. hamburger good, but not in the same league as what's down the street. fish taco good, continuing in the taco tradition now going back several months here. but the best thing on the menu a week or two ago were cherries: cherry pudding pie and just plain cherry pie. michigan cherry pie was also available. the pies came with a warning that the cherries weren't pitted, so these maybe weren't the best desserts if you had been drinking heavily, and it was exciting to find them here. not surprisingly, this place appears to be loosening up nicely, although it's a shock to see some of the big art that anchored the dining room gone, replaced by jokes.

They made pies without pitting the cherries? Am I the only one that finds this odd?

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They made pies without pitting the cherries? Am I the only one that finds this odd?

our server thought it was strange, the person who brought them to our table said it made them more flavorful. i'm not sure how much difference it makes to leave the pits in, but these were really succulent pies and the pits were no problem. i'm hoping for some peach pies next and assume the fruit will be stoned.

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A correctly made Clafoutis uses unpitted cherries - much better flavor, just like bone-in chicken.

Michel Richard disagrees. "My mother always said that it made the calfoutis taste better, but I think she was just lazy."
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Michel Richard disagrees. "My mother always said that it made the calfoutis taste better, but I think she was just lazy."

I am still trying to figure out how it could possibly make it taste better. Chicken I can understand, cherry pits, not so much.

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